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Lions Roar : November 2016
When you feel ready you can open your eyes or lift your gaze. Thank you. I’d like to tell the story of a conversation I had some years ago with a civil rights pioneer about love for all beings and love for life, which become one. Myles Horton was the founder of the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, which was a kind of training ground for civil rights protestors and later for people beginning the envi- ronmental movement. I asked him what he did to develop resilience or get a break from the pressure and stress of his work. He said, “I look at the mountains. I just sit and look at the mountains.” Then we segued to loving-kindness meditation, which is a big part of what I teach. He said, “Martin Luther King used to say to me all the time, ‘You’ve got to love everybody.’ And I used to say, ‘No I don’t. I only have to love the people worth loving.’ And King would laugh and laugh and say, ‘Nope, you’ve got to love everybody.’” It’s a complex question. What in the world could it mean to love everybody? To love somebody that you actually don’t like, that you’re going to fight and protest against? Rev. angel Kyodo williams: You don’t have to like anyone at all! [Laughter] People always tease me about this. I hardly like anyone. But I love everyone. And that is possible. In fact, it’s the very thing that bridges the spiritual life and the activist life. When I came to Buddhist practice, I thought that when people were at the pinnacle of their practice they would see the need to respond to the problems in world. Isn’t that what would happen once you get there, wherever “there” is? But that wasn’t my experience, so I switched my focus to the activists. They were trying to change the world, and I felt that if I could support them with meditation and awareness practices, then they could do it more effectively. What I ran into, of course, was that they pretty much didn’t love anyone. [Laughter] So love is what I’ve focused on, because in social justice work the only option is loving everyone. Other- wise, there is no path to real change. Whether we’re leaning toward the spiritual community or the activist community, what we need is the combination of a mind that wants to change the world and a mind that is steady, clear-seeing, and seeks change from a place of love, rather than from a place of anger. It’s important not to get stuck in your own views. Even if you think yours is the right way, there’s always someone else who has another way. Then you’re in an irreconcilable conflict that doesn’t get resolved except, I think, through love. King and Gandhi understood that everyone holds some aspect of the truth. So when you’re in the pursuit of social jus- tice, it becomes very difficult to hold onto your own idea of the truth. You’d think that the more you’re in pursuit of justice, the more you know what’s right. But it’s actually the opposite. Happiness and suffering, right and wrong, like and dislike— these are the paradoxes that exist for all of us balancing the inner life and outer life. We think it’s one or the other: either we like and agree with people, or we’re against them and we have to hate them. The question is, how do we exist in the space that holds both of these dualities at once? Sharon Salzberg: Thank you for that. That was beautiful. Happiness is another kind of inner resource for people seeking REV. ANGEL KYODO WILLIAMS is a Zen teacher and founder of the Center for Transformative Change. She is the author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace and co-author of the new book Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation. In social justice work the only option is loving everyone. Otherwise, there is no path to real change. LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2016 56